You’re Not In The Business Of Convincing Clients What To Do

Negotiation is better than logic

Have you ever wondered why your clients don’t engage in your well informed health instructions?

The simple reason is that we make big decisions in our lives first based on emotion. Then we back up that decision with logic. Any change to our daily patterns is a big decision.

What most health professionals do is to try and convince the client they’re working with to make some change through logic. They fail to take into consideration the emotions that people go through when faced with change. I’m going to suggest that you engage in negotiation to determine the best fit for both parties. Use negotiation rather than trying to convince your client to go along with your programs through logic. Negotiation allows time to discuss the impact choices and to process any underlying emotions.

When it comes to negotiation-whether you’re in the role of a mentor, business owner or clinician-the first thing you want to do is consider the perspective of the other person and ensure they feel understood.

Doing so starts with being observant with regards to their facial expressions, mood, tone of voice, and physiology. If you’re not sure what the other person is thinking, you could use a label like:

“You seem a bit apprehensive”

“It looks like I might have confused you.”

“It sounds like you are struggling with this right now.”

Don’t worry about getting the label incorrect as the person you’re talking to will correct you if you’re wrong. The aim of a label is to have them tell you what’s on their mind. To get a bit more information prior to any commitment.

It’s Important The Other Person Feels Understood

Your ability to successfully engage with another person begins with you making them feel understood. Showing empathy and a willingness to listen to them before YOU start talking goes a long way in making the other person feel understood. 

If you begin the negotiation with your perspective and ideas, you are more likely to initiate psychological reactance. That is the other person will be considering all the reasons why they won’t/can’t go along with your ideas. You run the risk of the negotiation turning into a battle of wills where neither person is really listening to the other.

When it comes to a negotiation, you need to get an idea of what the other person will and won’t do. This may require some probing and testing. All the time listening to gather more information.

There are so many options for clients to consider when entering into a recovery program and not all of them are going to be willingly adopted.

There are also many options for your staff to consider when being confronted with a possible change in behaviour. 

As an expert negotiator, you will have to help your client/staff member understand the implications of the choices they are making whilst being respectful of their decisions. 

It is really important to understand the thinking behind any choices made and asking open questions using “What” and “How” will help you do this.

Just as clinicians gather information to use for clinical reasoning, you want to use the same strategy to help you understand the other person’s thinking process.

But before you do or present anything, you need to make them feel understood.

Once The Other Person Feels Understood, Probe a Little Further Dig a Little Deeper

Once a client feels understood, it’s time to start moving in an agreed direction. Probe and test your clients to discover what they will do and won’t do. Use open questions. Open questions are designed to make people think.

Instead of providing a list of exercises or things to do, you might say something like this:

“What exercises from this list could you fit in tomorrow or this week?”

Allow them to choose what will fit into their day rather than handing them the perfect program that will fix their problem. This is something that clinicians are trained to do. From my experience this often is unsuccessful in getting the commitment necessary to achieve change.

The trouble with presenting the perfect plan to the client is that they often feel overwhelmed and may not do any of the exercises. This often happens after they have agreed to your program whilst sitting in the consulting room.

This scenario even happens when a clinician is in the patient role. I’ve been told from health professionals, that they sought professional help with an injury but failed to follow the advice provided. They agreed to the program without considering how they would fit the recommendations into their already very busy life. I can confess to doing this too.

By guiding your clients with open questions, you can help them consider what they are committing too. They can work out how their choices will impact on their day. Negotiating a plan that will work is more beneficial to both parties than providing a perfect solution with little or no engagement.

One exercise done on a daily basis will equate to 7 over the course of a week. This doesn’t sound like much but it is far better than no exercises completed at the end of the week. One daily exercise is also building up a new habit for many people. Success is gained through small steps. Never underestimate the power of a single exercise completed in a day.

Remember, You’re Not in the Business of Convincing People What to Do

Expert negotiators understand that they are not in the business of convincing people what to do. Embarking on a program to turn health problems around can often be highly emotional, and no amount of reason, facts, and logic will ever help a client overcome their emotions.

People make decisions based on emotion and back them up with logic. Not the other way around. Evidence of this can be found in Daniel Kahneman’s book “Thinking Fast And Slow”.

Once your clients feel understood, you begin to develop the trust-based influence you need to get better engagement. At that point, you can discuss openly how your plan can be adjusted to one that will work for the client.

Far too often, clinicians offer an exercise program expecting agreement at the end of the session with little time for thinking, consideration and discussion. This isn’t always the best approach especially when the commitment in terms of time and money is large. In instances like this perhaps consider allowing time to discuss what is being offered and allow the client to adapt and make changes to your program.

The perfect program is the one that gets done not the one that’s agreed to and left on the shelf.

Taking the time to make clients feel understood and fully consider what’s being offered is what accelerates engagement.

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